Pieces for Treble Voices, Unison and Two-Part
Unless otherwise noted, all pieces are a cappella, and published by Boosey & Hawkes in their CME series. I have indicated levels of difficulty, and in order that nobody gets a nasty shock, when in doubt I have described the pieces as "advanced". However, whether or not a piece is advanced depends on how comfortable the choir feels with my approach. I know that directors have found many of my pieces daunting, and yet there is nothing listed here that has not been sung by twelve year olds (albeit twelve year olds with lots of choral experience).
I was pleased that when Dr. Solveig Holmquist wrote on my music in the American Choral Journal, she rated the majority of my work as only medium in difficulty, yet still rewarding to advanced singers due to the richness of the writing. This does not mean you should feel inadequate if my pieces do strike you as difficult! Such things are different for everybody.
Crossroads Childrens Festival Chorus
The Crossroads Childrens Festival Chorus at the Grand Ole Opry with soloists Kallen Esperian (in the great dress),
Lawrence Hamilton and Ronnie Milsap. The orchestra is in the shadows on your left. There had never been so many
musicians on this stage before, packed to the very edge of the apron so that the harpist and her harp were nearly
hoisted to the ceiling when the weighted curtain went up.

Acceptance Speech
(unison/piano with optional [but glorious] 3-part at the end: published by Roger Dean)

(Roger Dean)   15/1741R

This piece is easy enough for young singers, but also works very well in a different way for teens' or women's voices. The text is inspired by the number of fabulous people I know who say they were just horrible as children. The narrator reminisces about various times she drove everybody around the bend, and then launches into an "acceptance speech" that reveals she has just received the Oscar for displaying the very character traits that made her so impossible as a child. The other level of "acceptance" occurs between the narrator and her long-suffering mother. This is a chart with a lot of humour that goes way beyond the usual one-shot joke of the novelty song, while at the same time supplying the kind of easy-on-the-ears refreshment that can make a novelty song go over so well with audiences. The piano part is a rolling Fats Domino beat in the style of "Blueberry Hill", very much part of what makes the piece both accessible and unusual.

For Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus.


Members of the Juvenata 2008 Festival Choir who sang the children's part in "As Above, So Below". Photos by Alex Keir."

As Above, So Below
(SSATB or SATB and children's chorus)


Juvenata! 2008
This belongs to the tradition of "music of the spheres", where the text and musical texture of the piece evoke the interdependent workings of the heavens and our own little planet. Full of circular, grooving ostinati that exert various kinds of magnetic pull on each other, the text is also full of circles ("I'm having déjà vu explaining that I'm having déjà vu…") as it links the cycles of the moon and the sea with the cycles of human history and the cosmos whose nature we reflect in miniature. This may sound rather highfalutin' , but the piece is meant to be funky and good humoured. The ostinati are quite simple in themselves - the challenge comes when cross-rhythms arise when they are superimposed. A piece with a very allusive text set to music with one foot planted in a Detroit horn section.

For the Vancouver Island CME, July 1999.

Using t'ai-chi and science toys to rehearse with the youngest members of the High Park choir family. Choir director: Zimfira Poloz. Photos by Serge Sapega.

Ballad of Skipper Knight, The
(SA voices (with divisi) , optional unison )

(SATB, piano)   979-0-051-47721-0
(treble, accordian, violin, bass, and Spanish guitar)   979-0-051-10501-4
(treble, piano)   979-0-051-47412-7
(TTB, piano)   979-0-051-47722-7

Newman Sound
A lilting 6/8 song set in Newfoundland, where the singer walks along the ice fields in the moonlight, thinking of families and lifestyles gone by. The mood is both tender and triumphant, the melody is catchy and the beat invites you to sway in your seat. The part writing is unison or two part, with easy SSA divisi in the final chorus, although there are nuances of rhythm and phrasing to reward advanced choirs. An inspirational, spiritually uplifting piece that at the same time is a singalong country waltz. Good for both large and small choirs - and the option of adding accordion, violin, bass and guitar brings out the downhome flavour of the music.
In measure 98 there is a typo in the text, which should read, "No don't you", not "No you don't".

For Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus.

Best In The House
(Selections From)

(SA with piano)


An infectious 6/8 swinger that brings together gorgeously catchy folk songs from Newfoundland and Ireland. Texts are in English and about a half dozen phrases of Irish. Manageable by a good senior elementary or middle school choir, but more than musical enough for an advanced choir, who will have plenty of opportunities to display their tone, styling, and ability to shape a phrase. See "Best In The House" on the page for three-part treble for an audio clip from the entire suite.
N.B. Typo in m 105, Treble II. The first note should be a quarter G#, not F#. In the pronunciation guide on page 3, all of the "ch"s in the Gaelic should be underlined, indicating that it is "ch" as in "Bach" and "loch".

For Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus.

Blonde In A Black Skirt
(unison voices and piano: optional fiddle, flute, percussion - published by Alliance Music)

  (Alliance) AMP 0325

This puts words to a fast and furious set of Irish jigs. The goal is white-hot energy that refuses to flag. Suitable for step-dancing. It's easy in that it's unison, and the piano follows the voices closely. It's challenging in that the tempo must be brisk, the words go a mile a minute, and the melody stretches from the B below middle C to the F# at the top of the staff - certainly good for exercising the whole range (and the few high notes are short, and approached in a friendly way). Has been done by middle school choirs, but having some mature voices in the mix gives presence to the sound.

For the Calgary Girls’ Choir, Alberta.

The Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley rehearse "Dubula", which was revoiced into SSAA for them and their director, Elena Sharkova.

Bonny Wood Green
(SA with some divisi - published by Alliance Music)

(SA)   (Alliance) AP 0326
(TBB)   (Alliance) AMP 0882

Cantilon Chamber Choir
For the Calgary Girls' Choir, Alberta, with a new TBB voicing for men, commissioned by the Seattle Catholic High School Choir Festival, 2012. A slow, sad, lilting Irish ballad of W.W.I, still sung in pubs today. The TBB voicing is in a different key than the treble score, and some of the pronouns have switched gender, so there would be some advance planning required if one wished the two versions to be sung together. A deliberately stark arrangement, with much unison. Haunting and tender. References to Flanders may tie in well with Remembrance Day. Medium difficulty. From m. 45-47 have the two lower voices sing every note to the syllable "roo", with a crisply rolled "r" like a snare drum, instead of the "loo" printed in the score."


Bring It Home
(SA - some simple divisi - and piano: optional steel drum or melody instrument)


"Bring It Home" was commissioned by Melanie Michael as a 25th anniversary present to her husband Andre, and to daughters Melinda and Aleisha, who both sang in the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario. "Bring It Home" retells the story that Melanie told me: having daughters in the choir brought to their home an awareness and an appreciation of music that wouldn't have happened otherwise. My piece, sung from the child's point of view, also paid tribute to Andre's Caribbean side with a steel pan solo played by Aleisha. The soundfile is from the Amabile Youth Singers' 25th Anniversary Concert, and though the tempo is a touch slow, it did facilitate clean diction in a wet acoustic - something that needs to be taken into consideration with this piece. The steel pan solo can be played on marimba, or keyboard, or even left out as the piano part can still carry the piece. For them what gots it though, the steel pan sure does sound right. And it's amazing how good steel pan sounds on some electric keyboards . . . or a steel pan/marimba mix. . .


During rehearsals for Juvenata! 2003, the festival in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, where I had a
wonderful time and premiered 'All Too Soon'. I can't remember what I was trying to demonstrate
by carrying the chorister across the room, but that boy's smile is one of my all time favourites. Photos by Alex Kier.

Camino, Caminante
(high voice/low voice, piano, three percussion)


Inspired by the swirling demographics of Miami, this piece suggests the wheels within wheels of a big city by creating double hemiolas. Something of a brisk Latin style. The choral parts are quite easy, yet when superimposed on each other and combined with the piano part, a tasty sense of polyrhythm is created. The piano part is well suited to electric keyboard on a marimba-ish voice. Text is a mixture English and Spanish - only a sentence or two of each. Although I meant the piece to be manageable by young choirs, the extended polyrhythm does place a certain kind of demand on singers and pianist as well. Conductors, look for the places where the main pulses in the two patterns overlap, and then build your conducting pattern on those pulses. In this way you can conduct both the duple and the triple feel at the same time with the same gesture.

For the Miami Choral Society.

Canary In A Coal Mine


Young Singers
Written for the 20th Anniversary of the Young Singers, led by Anna Lynn Murphy, this piece makes it possible to bring together three ensembles: SATB, SSA and Unison. It can also be sung by a single SATB divisi ensemble, especially if the SA voices outnumber the TB voices, as is often the case. The Unison vocal line, which first enters at the pick-up to m. 57, can be sung by any mix of voices. Although it might require amplification, the SSA and/or Unison parts can be taken by soloists.

In olden times the men would go to the mines.
And to be sure that the air was there in the lines
They’d take a canary, and as long as it sang
They knew they were fine.

Sometimes you feel you sing alone in the dark.
Sometimes you feel you’re the only soul on the ark.
The dove carries the olive branch, canary carries the song,
And we all work the mines.


Cheetah Song, The
Unison or SA and piano


St. Mary's Children's Choir
When I asked Jacklin Falconer what the St. Mary's Children's Choir wanted to sing about, "Animals, animals, animals!" with the greyhound, hedgehog and cheetah mentioned by name. The piece was written with an eye for helping the choristers learn the music: measures 19-65 are repeated, almost note for note, at measures 69-115. For a unison version of the piece, follow the Soprano line except in those places where the score indicates the melody is in the Alto. A choir can add as much or as little of the harmony as suits them; the recording gives an example of a performance that customizes the score in this way.


Christmas Day (How Long The Night Can Last)
unison and piano


Written for my friends David Chafe and Andrew Dale, this piece is meant to be simple enough for young singers and subtle enough for the most advanced. I love paradoxes, and this song portrays a Christmas Eve that could be tranquil, or tormented, or both. The torment is deliberately understated so that choirs can portray a mood of gentle Christmas comfort without any dark edge. For those who find the dark edge throws the light into higher relief, you'll know what I'm after. Although first written for a soloist, the melody is well suited to how a unison choir shapes a phrase.


Forest Ridge
At the Forest Ridge festival organized by Alison Seaton, discussing the influence of music on relativity
theory with alto chorister and physics buff Hannah Brown - always a good topic for a laugh.

Devil and Bailiff McGlynn, The
(In unison, with a bit of optional divisi towards the end.)


A unison accompaniment intended for keyboard accordion could also be played on piano, or melody instruments such as fiddle or clarinet. A traditional Irish tune in "slip jig" time (9/8 as opposed to the 6/8 of a jig). The suave devil and the bootlicking bailiff go strolling through Ireland, discussing which of the people - and pigs - they meet most deserves to be carried off to the infernal regions. The tables get turned, rhythmically as well. An ingenious and witty song that turns a unison vocal texture into a showstopper.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Drumbeat and Willowsong
(Pukjantan Yangryu Ga)

High Voice / Low Voice (with a dozen measures of divisi), flute, drum

(Individual parts for flute and drum)   979-0-051-10576-2

Nove Voce
Although originally written for the Cantabile Young Men's Chorus of Kingston, Ontario, this suite of South and North Korean folk songs can be sung by any combination of singers in a two-part texture of high voice and low voice. I have always been attracted to a mixture of sorrow and joy, and Korean folk music brings these two opposites together in a particularly striking way. The suite unfolds as a quest for both romantic and patriotic love as the beauties of landscape intertwine with the beauties of the fantasy lover. The singers find themselves in fishing boats, rounding a noble cape to the sound of drums; or climbing the passes of high mountains to the sound of rushing rivers; or hypnotized by the perfume of flowers and the scent of the beloved, to the sound of honey-drunk bees and birds. The use of a single drum (options for what kind of drum are discussed in the score) is in tribute to Korean p'ansori, one of my favourite forms of vocal music, while the use of the flute pays tribute to how in this culture the flute can suggest the languor of love, the vigour of adventure, and the undulating line of a landscape. The suite, which is sung in Korean, comes with detailed notes on pronouncing the language (the IPA transcription is much more straightforward than you'd think) as well as lots of background on the songs and their cultural context. More research and scholarship went into this suite than anything else I have published. My thanks to my Korean coach Lee Sunghwa, whose name means "a star in harmony and balance", and who brought both of these qualities to our discussions. The soundfile is taken from a section of the suite that shows the sudden tempo changes common in Korean music. Note that individual parts for the flute and drum can be ordered from Boosey. These parts are incorporated into the vocal score, but in that format they will not be convenient for the flautist and drummer to use in performance.


 The Monk Picks Cherries
The Monk Picks Cherries: using Tai Chi to animate a musical phrase in
Central Bucks High School West, Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Floating Upstream
(SA, optional unison, and piano)


For the group that is looking for something off the beaten track. Written for a good senior elementary choir, but also ideal for middle schools. I wanted to give young singers the chance to do something musing and a little melancholy, as an alternative to the bouncy stuff that is usually all this age group gets. The drifting, bittersweet, wordless melody is hummed over a gently insistent piano part, and would make an effective contrast sung between two upbeat numbers. The introspective mood and lack of text can nonplus young singers, so guidance from the director is especially important. It's certainly good for working on how to shape a phrase.

For Gordon Head Elementary School Senior Choir, Victoria, British Columbia.

Foggy Birthday Shuffle
(SA, optional unison, and piano)


Very upbeat and lively, with a chorus that even very young singers can learn by rote in a few minutes. Two brisk little melodies are introduced, then superimposed by the end of the chart, so that even choirs unaccustomed to singing in harmony find themselves doing just that. Because of its energetic swing this has gone over well with young choristers, but you need a pianist who can do the shuffle style (non-stop swung eighths in the left hand), or it will sound lame. The piano part isn't otherwise demanding, but the left hand never stops doing that DOObahDOObah groove. The score of the piece ends with an abrupt piano gesture, in part so that we could squeeze it onto the page. The soundfile by Amabile shows the mischievous 'glissorama' ending I would actually like.

For the elementary schools of the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia.

Just Can't Stand It
(SA - final two measures break into simple 4 part chord, which can be replaced by a unison or two-part)


A kind of brisk a cappella blues with lots of call-and-response. Medium technical difficulty, but the piece has been embraced by advanced choirs because it's the kind of show-stopper that has brought festival audiences to its feet. A mixture of cynical humour, compassion and anxiety attack, the text lists the miseries of a young student who just hates the ordeal of going to school and trying to get along with anybody at all. (They say that kids are nice and kids are good.  So why all the creeps in my neighbourhood?) At the same time these miseries are described with such panache that the piece is as much a hoot of triumph as a wail of frustration. The piece can be performed without the body percussion notated in the score.

For Contra Costa Children’s Chorus, CA.

Guelph Young Singers
Members of the Guelph Young Singers, a choir that has made "Labour of Love" its own.
Director: Linda Beaupré

Labour of Love
(SSA, piano and violin)


Kokapelli Choir
Much of this piece is in unison and two-part, and the three-part writing is simple. I wanted a piece that would not be taxing to learn, accessible to young singers, but which would give ample opportunity for the kind of phrasing and interpretation that keeps even an advanced choir challenged. The violin part often gets the melody, and what a lovely and lilting Celtic melody it is - a 6/8 treasure to which I've put words that talk of the narrator's search for....something. Sample lyric: They brought me to the doctor. She said, 'It's the clearest case I've ever seen. This kid needs a ransom, she needs a genie, she needs a ship sailing where she was always meant to be.' A song that is introspective yet uplifting and catchy at the same time. The audio clip shows how I have taken to bringing the violin at m. 20.

The clip also shows how I would like the piece to end. In the score I have the choir's final chord brought to a sudden close by a short bass note on the piano. At the time I liked the way this unexpectedly crisp ending swam against the current of sentiment, but I quickly came to reverse my thinking. I now want as much gentle tenderness as possible as the piece closes, so that the brisk bass note is now wrapped in velvet and re-equipped with a fermata.

For the Toronto Children's Chorus, Ontario.

At Collingwood Jr. School in Vancouver, demonstrating how I want a musical line to stretch and extend.

Mayn Rue Platz

(SA (with divisi), violin and percussion)   979-0-051-47811-8
(SATB, violin and percussion)   979-0-051-47810-1

Juvenata! 2008 (without violin)
I've taken a Yiddish lament, usually sung slowly, and set it to Arabic-flavoured dance grooves which are both ecstatic and edgy, aggressive and smouldering. The piece evokes the MIddle East without being culturally specific, as I want this arrangement to suggest a lament for all the people of that part of the world. The violin is strongly featured and combines rhythmic chops with a wailing cantabile. At least two percussionists are needed on tambourine and doumbek but the performance notes give various options for different numbers of players and different styles of drums. The vocal lines are passionate and undulating, like a silk ribbon on their breeze, like tendrils of perfumed smoke. The cantabile vocal lines combine with the driving percussion to create a piece which could equally open or close a concert con fuoco. My thanks to the Virginia ACDA for asking me to write them something.


Ödi Ödi
(can be performed unison)


This setting of a Tamil song is most effectively sung with a double SSA choir, with the 2nd choir being a double or triple trio. Its message - searching for a light that was within us all along - lends itself well to various sorts of thematic programming. Since the song is in 7/8, it gives choirs a chance to experience something of the rhythmic flexibility of the Indian tradition. A very dreamy, meditative mood is created. With all six voices, advanced level, though I've done the core melody in unison with young children, while the accompanying drone was done on Orff-tuned percussion. There is also a simple but very evocative part for zils.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Ohisashi Buri
(SA children's choir, SATB choir and 4-hand piano)


More and more choirs are looking for pieces that can combine a children's group with an SATB ensemble. The title means "It's been a while", or "Long time, no see", and refers to the fact that I'm revisiting the ancient Japanese tradition of "kakegoe" - the shouts of encouragement and effort in a work song that helps drive the workers on. My text is "kakegoe" from four old Japanese songs (very short phrases - very little Japanese to learn), and with the help of 4-hand piano I set up lots of antiphonal chanting as the choir carries the shouts of encouragement through a variety of tonal styles, from pentatonic ostinati to sequences of jazzy compound chords. Neither the part for the SA choir nor the SATB choir is too difficult, and sections repeat note for note, although as with other of my pieces the challenge comes with the choir tackling a texture they're not used to. This is a high energy piece that ends with a wallop, and gives your pianists a chance to make some noise.

For Scala of Brussels, Belgium, and Ritsuyu-Kai of Japan.

The deeply soulful and accomplished Chicago Children's Chorus, whose outreach program
reaches 2,600 children. They commissioned "You"re History", and are one of the great
performers of "Run Children Run". Photo by Kenny Kim.

Old Fox Wassail
(two part voices)


If you've ever wanted a wintertime piece that makes no mention of Christmas whatsoever, but still summons up something of its old traditions, this is it. A very old melody linked with winter celebrations throughout Europe, and a text with lots of humour and room for word painting. Manageable by middle schools, and senior elementaries if some of their singers have developed alto chops - the alto line goes down to an A. The presence of some older voices will help put weight in the tone. Also great for mature voices, who can get more earth in the sound.

For VIVA Choirs of Victoria, British Columbia.

Isle aux Morts
A picture from my visit to Isle aux Morts, where Ann & Séamus takes place. Ann Harvey would
have stood on this bluff, looking out to sea. No trace of her family home remains.
For another picture of Isle aux Morts, see "Worth Fighting For" on the page for three-part treble.

On The Horizon
(unison with piano)


Nove Voce/Tapestry
I have reworked parts of Scene 3 of Ann and Séamus for unison voices. (A soundfile of part of Scene 3 from the original opera score can be heard on this website by going to the page for Ann and Séamus and clicking the soundfile beside "Ann has a premonition".) The lilting melody is one of the strongest in the opera, and though designed for young choirs, such are the opportunities for phrasing and word-painting that the chart could be rewardingly done by more advanced groups.


Once I Had A Sweetheart
(SA - published by Colla Voce)

(Colla Voce)   21-20528

Amabile (studio)
Amabile (live)
A British/American folk hybrid with tender, melancholy melody and a text that movingly evokes lost love. Lots of opportunities for phrasing, shaping, and word painting. The bare, two part harmony increases the sense of loneliness and loss. I've found singers become quite loyal to this chart. Medium difficulty. The live audio clip shows how I often end the piece by humming the first verse.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

One for Frost, Two for Fire
(a round, so in a way this is unison, in a way it's not; but good elementary school choirs have sung it)


- and three for everything I desire. I love rounds, and here I've made one with a text that draws on counting songs and children's rhymes in order to explore the internal searching we do as we get older. The round starts simply, but reaches an almost Purcellian ingenuity by the end. Nice for the audience, because the round enables them to follow very clearly as the texture develops and builds. I'm fond of his one. Medium difficulty. Although published for treble voices, I always intended the piece to work for SAB. Click here for a single page which gives instructions on revoicing the SSA score for SAB.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Run Children Run
Rehearsing "Run Children Run" at a Hatfield festival in Pennsylvania - thanks kids, you were great.

Run Children Run
(double SA choir with soloist(s))

(treble)   979-0-051-46972-7
(SATB)   979-0-051-47159-1

A barnburner and crowd pleaser, I took an old field yell and turned it into a slow cooking, hard rocking number. The piece builds on just a few basic riffs, and I've taught nearly the whole thing to massed choirs, and performed it, in less than an hour (although I have the advantage of knowing it really well). If you have some soloists who can improvise over a riff, this is their chance to shine. Nowhere near as hard as it first looks on the page. The soundfile shows how the Chicago Children's Choir builds a fire under the second half of the piece.

For the Children’s Aid Society Chorus of NYC.

Selections from Best in the House
See "Best In The House (Selections From)"


Members of The Children's Chorus of Washington,
ready to go on stage

(can be done unison, SA, SSA or SSAA, with piano and room for bass and drums)


Technically not that difficult, especially in its unison or SA form, but it takes confidence to pull this one off because the style keeps hopping between Latin, boogie-woogie and a stop-and-start declamatory delivery. (I'm pleased to say that the driving grooves and unexpected switcheroos put this piece in particular favour with a New Orleans drummer.) Text and music are both full of biting humour as they cast a half-amused, half caustic look at the occupational hazards of hanging on to this crazy planet.

For the Contra Cost Children’s Chorus, CA.

Si Tu Veux
(high voice and low voice with piano)


Nove Voce
The Oriana Women's Choir of Toronto has commissioned a series of Canadian choral composers to set poems by children from the Toronto District School Board, and the accompanying soundfile is from the concert where they premiered the results.

I chose a French poem by Ben Sprenger, a grade one student who, like myself, is interested in synaesthesia, where the senses cross boundaries and sound suggests colours and colours suggest sound, to give just one possible cross-connection. Sprenger's poem, an exploration of where the colours orange and yellow take his thoughts, is set in slow-motion languor as every piece of sensory detail is savoured, like licking the roof of your mouth for the honey that Ben places in his poem.

The piano part combines that languor with the tick of a steady, inescapable pulse: Satie's dream of Lully, or vice versa. The two slowly undulating vocal lines, which can be sung by any combination of voices (for example, S/A, T/B or ST/AB), drift apart, melt back into each other, and drift apart again, in a showcase for the choir's tone and phrasing. Sprenger's poem is very short, so choirs and audiences unused to French will not have much of the language to tackle.


Singers and dancers rehearse together for the Halifax premiere of Chamber Music,
commissioned by Jackie Chambers and the Aeolian Singers. Choreography by Sherry Lee Hunter.

Take A Step
(SA with keyboard and tambourine)


This entire piece grows out of two simple phrases that sound antiphonally between soprano and alto. However, the timing is in seven (mostly broken down to one-two-three, one-two, one-two); and although I intend this piece to be manageable by middle schools as well as older choirs, the 7/8 time signature is a potential impediment. I've taught the key phrases by ear, which allows singers to learn the melodic framework for the entire piece without even being aware that they are in an irregular meter, since the phrases sound quite smooth and "un-weird" to the ear. Having the choir listen to the recording would make things that much easier again. My text deals with an immigrant mother watching her baby daughter, and wondering how to find an equilibrium between the country they've left and the country they've found. The music is light and flowing with crisp, latin-inflected rhythms, and the mood combines the thoughtful and provoking with the bright and bouncy. On the easy side of medium difficulty, depending on how you feel about that 7/8.

For the Holton-Arms School of Washington, DC, in honour of its centennial.

Takeda No Komoriuta
(unison or SA with ostinato for an assortment of instruments)


A lullaby from Takeda, sung in Japanese - there's only two short verses of Japanese to learn, and the words are nice and slow. This is a lullaby with a difference though, as the narrator says in the first line how much she hates being a nursemaid, how tired she is of the baby crying. She has to sing him to sleep, at the same time wishing she were somewhere else. And so you get the lovely melodic serenity of a lullaby coupled with a psychological angle that's fun for the choir to explore. The piece can be sung in either unison or two part, and the performance notes show how you can do a simplified two-part version for choirs who aren't yet ready for the full SA treatment. The accompaniment comes from a simple two bar ostinato that I've had played on various combinations of instruments - a piano, a piano played by opening the lid and plucking the strings, a harp, a guitar, the tuned percussion from primary music programs, synthesizer....there's lots of room for experimentation. I like to end with a slow downward gliss on a bell tree while the singers hold the final note.

For the St. James-Assiniboia Divisional Concert Choir of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Three Part Conniption
(SA with piano)


A bopping little piece about getting into all sorts of trouble, this was written with boys in mind, and contains such nuggets of higher art as "You know Josephine, her uncle runs the Dairy Queen, her granny's double jointed and they got a lotta cash," and "We can burp the alphabet and O Holy Night". (When I conduct this piece I like to get one of the boys to burp through part of the alphabet before we start, just to give the audience the right moral tone.) Boys have asked me why the partners-in-crime in the song are girls instead of guys, but I wanted to give girls the chance to live out their inner brat as well. A good chance for the choir to express its high-spirited side. The soundfile features the Amabile Boys' Choir, directed by Carol Beynon and Ken Fleet.

For the Toronto Children's Chorus, Ontario.

Two Minutes Before Sleep
(two part or unison voices with piano)


This is one of my most unusual pieces, and hard to describe: when it strikes a chord, it strikes deep, but I know it's not for everybody. Half chanted, hypnotic vocal line with one of my best texts, about the sheer strangeness of growing up. Although written for young singers, it has found most acceptance with adult choirs, in whose hands it becomes a tenderly eerie revisiting of their childhood. Perfect if you want a fast learner that sounds like nothing else, and would make a good contrast when programmed between two more "normal" pieces. Well, it's a fast learner in some ways (and remember, the final harmony can be dropped if needed), but it’s the sort of score the conductor needs to feel comfortable with, and it may take you your first teaching of the piece to feel comfortable. I don’t mean to make is sound more difficult than it is, but at the same time I know that this sort of piece carries its own sort of challenge.

For the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Worth Fighting For
(SA with piano and percussion, with options for solos or choral divisi)


I have reworked parts of Scenes 2, 4 and 5 of Ann and Séamus to create a self-enclosed suite. (Soundfiles of some of the relevant parts from the original opera score can be heard on this website by going to the page for Ann and Séamus and clicking the soundfile beside "Early morning at Isle aux Morts" and "On the Derry docks".) There are optional parts for four soloists (Ann, Séamus, Father George and Mother Jane) which have the option of being taken by sections of the choir.

All solo parts are scored for treble voices, but Séamus and Father George can be sung by a tenor and bass. The suite can be performed in choral concert formation, or it can be turned into a piece of theatre through various degrees of blocking and/or costume. The percussion part is scored for a frame drum, but could easily be transferred to the floor tom of a drum set.


Just before going on stage with the Octopipers, the precocious chamber group from
the Kingswood-Oxford Middle School in Hartford, Connecticut. Marcos Carreras Castro, director.